Tasha Smith always understands the assignment. Whether she’s directing hit shows like the Starz series, Black Mafia Family, embodying career-defining roles, or mentoring the brightest actors of tomorrow, the assiduity that Tasha dedicates to her craft is apparent. With equal parts hustle and talent, Tasha has never executed below the caliber of greatness.
Offscreen, she is simply Tasha – a sister and friend. Thanks to the intentional sisterhood that she’s built and her intimate circle of loved ones, Tasha remains a humble, prolific artist who is determined to teach and transfer her eminence through the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop. It’s clear, Tasha revels in it while balancing both her purpose and uplifting her community.
Her Agenda recently spoke with Tasha about seeking equilibrium as a multifaceted artist, the qualities of a great director, and the rewards of mentoring.
Her Agenda: A lot of people don’t know this, but you actually have a twin sister, Sidra Smith. I was curious to know how important sisterhood is to you in both a familial way and with your female friends and colleagues in the industry?
Tasha Smith: Sisterhood is what inspires you. Sisterhood motivates you. I always say that the people around you could either inspire you or depress you. You always want that friend that’s going to say, ‘Don’t worry, you can do it’ instead of a friend that says, ‘Yeah, your life seems very difficult, you should quit.’ Going through this industry as an actress and a director, you have ups and downs. You want to surround yourself with people that are going to motivate you to reach that next level. The people we surround ourselves with are a big part of where we end up. The wrong crowd could create the wrong future.
Her Agenda: What made you decide that it was time to take a step back from acting and focus on the behind-the-scenes process?
Tasha Smith: It wasn’t that I said ‘I’m going to step back from acting,’ it was more of ‘I’m going to give more time and energy to my directing career.’ I’m still an actress and I haven’t quit acting, but I wanted to take a year to nurture my directing career. Acting is something that is there and I’ll always have it. I needed to create opportunities as a director so that my portfolio could be somewhat equal to my acting. In order to make it valuable, I needed to give it more time and energy, and it was hard balancing out both worlds. I consciously said, ‘Okay actor, I’m going to give you a time out and I’m going to allow the director within me to thrive a little bit.’ It’s just balancing out the two parts of myself. Sometimes, the director has to speak and has to be there creating, and sometimes the actor has to be there instead. I don’t feel like any of us as creative beings should be boxed into one lane. We should allow our creative voices to live whether it’s directing, acting, painting, singing, producing, or teaching. We should be able to do all forms of art as creative beings.
Her Agenda: I know that you are also an acting mentor and have even opened up the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop. You even mentored Andra Day for her role as Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” in which she gave an incredible performance. What is something that you embed into them that you wish you would have known before you began your career?
Tasha Smith: What I ended up learning is that every character lives within me. Everything that I need is already inside of me. I don’t have to go outside of myself to create the voice of a character. Whatever I need to create that character, some part of it is already within me. I don’t have to feel that a character is something far away from my tools, emotion, physicality, or expression. All of it, everything, is already inside of me. I just have to tap into certain parts of myself to create and develop the voice of a character.
Also, there was a time when I was in so much pain that I felt afraid to be emotionally transparent. One thing that I realized is there is safety in telling the truth. There is a scripture, [John 8:32] that reads, ‘Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ As an actress, it’s not about lying, it’s about telling the truth. It’s not about hiding, it’s about being exposed.
Her Agenda: Being vulnerable and honest are also integral aspects of being creative. As an artist, what have you done during the pandemic to retain your sense of creativity and sense of self?
Tasha Smith: Honestly, I took time off. I literally took time off and I allowed myself to be replenished and revitalized. I had been traveling so much and working so hard on a reel of non-stop creativity. And, sometimes, it is good to sit still. Meditate, pray, relax, hike, pour into yourself physically, spiritually, and mentally. That right there is a part of creative growth as well because we can find ourselves working and creating on empty. When I noticed that my bucket was completely empty, I was able to fill it back up so that I would have more to give back.
Her Agenda: Compared to other actors and performers in the entertainment industry, you are rather private with your personal life. How do you differentiate your career vs your lifestyle?
Tasha Smith: I am private and there are some things that I feel should be left between you, yourself, and whoever. But, at the same time, I am an open book too. I don’t feel like you need to know who I’m dating, it’s not anyone’s business unless I choose to share it. At the end of the day, I am who I am whether it’s personal or career. Most of my friends don’t necessarily see two different people. Most who know me would probably say that I’m consistently me whether I’m at work or home.
I only do what I feel like doing and I don’t feel obligated to share what I don’t want to share. I have freedom in knowing that it’s my life and I can choose to do with it as I please. If I want to share something, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. I’m pretty much myself regardless of the role that I’m embodying. I don’t change, I don’t code-switch, and the ‘friend’ Tasha is the same energy as the ‘director’ Tasha. The ‘actress’ Tasha gives the same energy, but I may have a different way of processing the work. I just may not be as talkative since I need that intimate and private time with myself as I create and develop. At the end of the day, I want to be free to be me.
Her Agenda: As a director, you have to gain the trust of the actors you work with and run the show. And, the Black Mafia Family finale, which you directed, was a huge hit. What steps do you take to ensure that everyone on the production trusts in your creative direction and you as a director?
Tasha Smith: I respect them and share my vision with them. I communicate and ensure that no one is in the dark about what I want, what I’m doing or what I need. I respect the actors’ process, I collaborate with them while developing the characters. I communicate with my crew and answer all questions in a timely manner. I don’t allow anyone to be in the dark about anything. You have some directors where when asked a question, they say, ‘I don’t know.’ You’re probably not going to hear me say that. And, if I don’t know, I’m going to find out quickly.
Her Agenda: What would you like your legacy to be?
Tasha Smith: All that we are capable of doing for ourselves is a beautiful thing. I love seeing that my hard work and dedication have created beautiful opportunities in my life. But, there is something extremely rewarding about being a bridge to helping other people create opportunities in their lives as well. Being a director and an actress is beautiful. But, I tell you, being a bridge to someone getting from one destination to another that is going to change their life, financial stability, and their family stability is very rewarding. I want people to say, ‘Not only did Tasha help herself, but she helped us too.’
[EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY. HEADSHOT PHOTO CREDIT: BRANDON RUFFIN.]